UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW ELECTION LAW. Following months of controversy, the parliament has approved legislation whereby half of its 450 seats will be filled by ballots cast in single-member districts and the other half by voting for party lists, Ukrainian media reported on 24 September. President Leonid Kuchma has opposed party list voting, arguing it would strengthen some of the most organized parties. His spokesman said, however, that Kuchma will sign the new legislation.
ORTHODOX PATRIARCHS CALL FOR CHURCH UNITY IN UKRAINE. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholemew of Constantinople and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II said in Odessa on 24 September that "separations and divisions in the Church result in extensive damage." The two noted that "we must do everything possible to heal these wounds on the Church's body as soon as possible," according to ITAR-TASS. Observers say their comments are directed at the very divided Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Several days earlier, Aleksii made remarks that sparked a storm of protest from Ukrainian Church leaders (see RFE/RL Newsline, 22 September 97). The two patriarchs are in Odessa to participate in the international symposium on "Religion, Science, and Environment."